Professor Cannon Schmitt

Visiting Research Fellow
Cannon Schmitt

Jul 2016 - Aug 2016

Home institution

Department of English, University of Toronto


Cannon Schmitt (, Professor of English and Associate Director of the PhD program in English at the University of Toronto, is the author of two books, Darwin and the Memory of the Human: Evolution, Savages, and South America (Cambridge University Press, 2009; paperback reprint 2013) and Alien Nation: Nineteenth-Century Gothic Fictions and English Nationality (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997), and co-editor of Victorian Investments: New Perspectives on Finance and Culture (Indiana University Press, 2008). His essays have appeared in Representations, Victorian Studies, ELH, Genre, and elsewhere.


The Literal Sea

In The Literal Sea, Schmitt hypothesizes that the ocean and associated phenomena—tides, prevailing winds, marine engineering, ships under sail—constitute a privileged locus of the literal in Victorian fiction. In a recent article, for example, he treats Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness as an exemplary instance of fiction deploying a specialized maritime lexicon, contending that its precise articulation of tidal currents, nautical manoeuvres, and ship design signals the key role of “restraint” in that novella and throughout Conrad’s corpus—as well as the need for the development of a literal mode of reading that gives unwonted attention to technical and denotative language in fiction. With Elaine Freedgood, he co-edited a special issue of Representations on the possibility of such a mode of reading: Denotatively, Technically, Literally (2014).